European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research -
COST Action C11
Sheffield meeting of Management Committee for Cost Action C11 - 3-5 December 2000
Sheffield case Study
The tour included a wide range of greenspaces, from the highly designed formal parks to the mass of greenspace which is in effect space left over after planning. (There is so much of it that Sheffield City cannot afford to look after it adequately!)
The greenspace management and maintenance work carried out by the STEP Community Centre at Stocksbridge.
Regeneration of Sheffield City centre (a walk through the city centre and its public greenspaces, including the Peace Gardens, Tudor Square, Devonshire Green.
In our trip around part of Sheffield's greenstructure we saw a range of different types of greenspaces and how they are used nowadays - I noticed how important the changes relating to public gardens have been in influencing the character of the city. We saw how the problems of maintenance, definitions, new and diverse demands have influenced the way in which the greenspaces of the city have changed since they were first designated or created.
By way of contrast, most public gardens within the densely populated city of Paris have remained unchanged over the past one hundred and fifty years. Instead some new gardens and sports grounds have been added. Paris was poorly provided with greenspaces in relation to the number of inhabitants and although today there are fewer inhabitants, the public gardens are always full of users (of all kinds) and are very well maintained. Problems of maintenance costs probably do exist in some French towns, but the need to create more open spaces as Paris has grown has not been regarded as so important as in Sheffield.
The reason that it was suggested that Sheffield now has too much greenspace became clear as we drove round the city . Much of the greenspace is actually on unbuildable land (often for topographical reasons: too steep, too liable to flood, too high or of high landscape value, for example, in the Peak National Park, or because of its natural value). These areas of land have been designated as greenspace as this industrial city has expanded over the last two centuries, apparently without any understanding of the long-term costs to the city and its inhabitants of looking after that land.
The way that Sheffield's inhabitants set about rescuing the Sheffield Botanical Gardens from becoming derelict due to lack of maintenance and inappropriate management demonstrates that such a Garden can be seen as a fine heritage site, representing one of the most important images of the city's past , a happy one at that - an untouched memory of its glorious "industrial" past.
Leisure time now demands new types of greenspaces: we saw the Rivelin Valley Walk (one of many in Sheffield which have been opened up for the local inhabitants - they can be used as places to visit, or as paths from the built-up city centre to the countryside). This type of greenspace belongs to the natural green system of the city. More municipalities should promote this type of greenway as an answer to the demand for walkways. Open to everyone, these linear greenspaces link gardens and parks and link the city to its outer boundaries (the countryside). In Sheffield these valleys were where the industrial revolution started - there are many remains of water-powered workshops built along these valleys from the seventeenth to nineteenth century and then abandoned as the new larger factories powered by steam and later electricity came into being. This industrial archaeology is an important part of the experience of using these valleys for recreational purposes.
The evolution of the Victorian suburbs (Ranmoor/Broomhill) , with their recent increased densification (and consequential reduction in ecological richness), is the result of local authority planning policies. I am not sure that it would be possible in France nowadays to do so much damage through densification. In many French towns such pressures would be resisted because inhabitants want to protect the character of existing urban residential sectors and the associated greenstructure of residential areas. But in previous decades big blocks of flats or towers were built in such areas without concern - often in the middle of individual housing areas. Now densification of such areas is forbidden in most local plans.
Some comments by Klaus Wagner
Some aspects or points for discussion which are of importance to me:
Greenspaces in cities
can only be preserved if there is no compelling economic
interest in the areas concerned, e.g.:
So the overall ecological and social value of greenspaces needs to be documented very clearly, not just the economic value of the land, in order to put forward arguments for their conservation or management.
Greenspaces are also subject to mid- and long-term trends and have to be adapted accordingly. Changes in their use follow on from this, but with some planning and management, the new structures will be more efficiently run and better adapted. This relates to change in the use of land from built-up areas to greenspaces and also to the different uses within the categories of greenspaces themselves, e.g. from agricultural areas to parks or golf courses, from keeping cattle to horses, and from meadows or fields of cereal crops to more intensive fruit and vegetable growing.
Only in regions with special interests (e.g. tourism) does the market regulate the landscape management and conservation of the landscape. When tourism is not a driving force, contemporary social and environmental problems could be combined to bring about satisfactory solutions, for example, in relation to landscape management and the unemployed. But this can only work within a relatively stable economic framework, because in times of recession clothes and food become more important than a well-tended lawn.
Reflections on the Sheffield and Marseilles case - J.-M. Halleux , September 2001
During the Sheffield meeting, I was surprised by the importance of greenstructures for the local community in Stocksbridge. This feature came to light during the community meeting in the Stocksbridge "forest", as well as during the visit to the Stocksbridge Community Resource Centre. In Liège, where there are similar areas marked by traditional heavy industries (industrial suburbs which resulted from the steel industries), the relationships between nature and communities are not as strong. For instance, despite the poor quality of the urban environment within those industrial suburbs, local community meetings would rarely take place in greenspaces, but rather in a central place such as a square.
On a broader point, this reflection can be linked with the impact of the culture on urban planning. For instance, it is likely that the popularity of the greenbelt policy within the British population has very deep cultural roots.
Reflections on Marseilles: The right scale ?
During the Marseilles meeting, a very striking feature was the "broadening" of the urban areas. Marseilles is a wonderful example of the difficulties faced by planners because of the distortion between the institutional planning scale and the increasing interdependence of the territorial systems. In such a context, where the lack of mobility constrains and fashions the urban shapes, how can the adjacent greenstructures lead to the objective of the compact city ?
Background information on Sheffield and its Greenspaces
Developing a Sheffield Green-space Atlas - maps and diagrams indicating the extent of green-space in the different Wards (the electoral unit which votes for the Councillors on the City Council)
Statistics on Sheffield's greenspaces
Example of involving the public in enhancing the biodiversity and general usefulness of open green spaces to the public - the work of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust
Information and history of Sheffield's Botanical Garden
Information on the Greenspaces of Stocksbridge - developed from data provided by Anne Beer, Marius Menz and the students of Department of Landscape, University of Sheffield.
Summary of issues related to Greenspace Management in Stocksbridge (Marius Menz, 2001)
Map of Broomhill/ Ranmoor
The Need for Greenstructure Planning in the UK - a draft paper by Anne Beer for comment
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